Thursday 29 June 2017

Cricket: Upbeat O'Brien insists Ireland can reach last eight

Kevin O'Brien Photo: Getty Images
Kevin O'Brien Photo: Getty Images

Gerard Hughes

The Ireland squad were saying all the right things in Calcutta yesterday, but their interest in the World Cup is likely to be brought to an end tomorrow by South Africa.

There is a sequence of results that would still allow Ireland to reach the quarter-finals but it involves four 'ifs' -- by far the biggest being 'if' they beat the joint favourites, who beat India on Saturday.

All-rounder Kevin O'Brien was far from relaxed when Indian journalists asked how Ireland would approach the game 'now they had been knocked out of the World Cup'.

"We're not out yet," he stressed. "We believe we can beat anyone and if we win our last two games, we can go through. We've pushed everyone hard and played some fantastic cricket and we'll be looking to do that again."

O'Brien had to take another deep breath when asked whether he would try to smash the world's best bowler, Dale Steyn, out of the ground.

"I don't go into any game looking to target a bowler," he said. "Dale Steyn is dangerous with the new ball, swinging it away from the right-handers, and dangerous when the old ball starts to reverse swing. We'll treat him with the respect he deserves."

Andre Botha, who was born in Johannesburg before moving to Ireland at the age of 18, will be playing against his former countrymen for the third time. He was hoping Saturday's thrilling victory will have taken something out of the Proteas.

"They are one of the best teams in the world and every time you walk out against them it's something special -- not just because I was born there," he said.

"Beating India is a big win for them. But they've had to travel after that, and it gives us an advantage being here a day early." Laughing, he added: "Hopefully a couple of them will have hangovers, or something."

Meanwhile, John Mooney indicated that at least there would be no mental hangovers for Ireland from the controversial umpiring decision that sent Gary Wilson on his way at a crucial point against the West Indies on Friday.

"The umpires didn't cost us that game," Mooney said. "(Keiron) Pollard was the difference but it was another solid performance."

Key bowler Trent Johnston faces a race against time to be fit for the game as he struggles with the bruised knee that kept him out on Friday.

"We're all hoping Trent makes it because he is such an important player for us," O'Brien added. "He hasn't bowled in the nets yet but he'll be desperate not to miss out."

If Ireland were to pull off a win that would dwarf the England triumph in terms of an upset, then to progress they would also have to beat the Netherlands on Friday, and hope the West Indies topple England and that Bangladesh lose one of their last two games. Improbable, but not impossible.

Irish Independent

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